Nails and Nailer for Crown Molding

Crown molding adds beauty and style to interior walls with minimal effort to install.

Installing crown molding is relatively straightforward. You can find many designs and patterns of decorative ceiling skirtings that are pre-made. All you need to do is cut the molding into strips that fit along the top of the wall. Once secure, they can be painted to either match the color of the wall and ceiling. Or they can be painting a complementary color that helps to bring out the crown molding itself.

Securing the molding to the ceiling requires using the right sized nail and the right nail gun. You can use the old-fashioned hammer, but that will take a long time and is subject to misses that might damage the crown molding.

Best Nailer for Crown Molding

Nail Gun for Crown Molding
If you are ready to start securing the crown molding to the wall and ceiling, you will need the proper nail gun to do the job.

Of the many available choices, the best nail gun for crown molding is the 16G finish nailer. The 16-gauge nails have sufficient holding power to secure the molding in place, yet the nail holes are small enough to hide.

For small and lightweight molding, you can use the 18GA brad nailer. Extra-large and heavy trims may require 15GA finish nailer.
The main differences between 16GA and 15GA nailers are the nail diameter, nail head and the straight vs angled base.

The 16 GA finish nailer is designed for small projects such as securing crown molding. However, it is also well-suited to secure the following.

  • Baseboards and Cabinets
  • Chair Rails and Decorative Trim
  • Millwork and Hardwood Flooring

Dewalt 16GA Nailer

DEWALT Finish Nailer with Precision Point, 16GA (DWFP71917)

  • Tool Type: Straight Finish Nailer
  • Nail Size:16GA 1 ¼” to 2 ½” long
  • Capacity: 100 Nails
  • Tool-free depth adjustment
  • Power: Compressed Air
  • Weight: 4.2 LBS
  • Model: Dewalt DWFP71917
  • Price: Click Here to See Price


The finish nailer Is the perfect size because it allows you to get into the smaller, tighter areas that a framing nailer may not allow. But more importantly, the finish nails that are used are small enough to not be noticed while large enough to secure the crown molding. However, in some cases, if the nail is driven a little too deep the hole can be puttied over and then painted.

Use a Brad Nailer towards the edges

Larger diameter nails towards the edges may split the trim. Use a brad nailer at the edges of the crown molding to avoid splitting and cracking.

Brad nailer for crown molding
When you tack the outside corners, use the smaller brad nailer or pin nailer and glue. If you do not own a brad nailer, consider pre-drilling a hole to avoid cracking. The same rule applies when nailing through the scarf joints. You should also cut the molding such that the scarf joints fall on the studs to nail it clean.

Nails for Crown Molding

The type of nail gun and the size of nails you use are vital to whether the crown molding is securely placed to the wall and ceiling. Nails that are too large may damage the crown molding. Nails that are too short will not secure the crown molding at all. While nails that are too long will be difficult to drive into the studs. Therefore, you must choose the right size and length of nail to secure the crown molding properly without damaging it or the wall.

What size nail for crown molding?

Before you nail the molding, cut and install the backing strip. Be sure to mark the stud location so you properly secure the base to the wall.

For crown molding that includes a backing strip, you can use the 2” long 18-gauge brad nails. If you drive one nail up at a steep angle to secure the molding to the backing material, you can then fire the next nail horizontally just above it into the stud. This method will take more nails, but it will really secure the crown molding to both the backing strip and the wall. Use this method every few inches for the best results.

If you are not using a backing strip for some reason, you will want to increase the size and length of the nail. In this case, Use the 2 ½ inch long 16-gauge nails to install crown molding without backing strips. With a ¾” molding on ½” sheetrock, this should give you a nail penetration of 1 ¼” into the studs.

However, you should consider using a backing strip whenever possible.

Base Molding

For the base, you can use 2” long 18-gauge or 16-gauge nails. While the molding and the Sheetrock will take up one inch of the nail, the other inch into the stud is more than enough to secure the base. You can see more about the nail gun for baseboards and shoe molding here.

Use of Backing Strip in Crown Molding Installation

Backing strips are essential for crown molding installation. While the strips themselves can be made from plywood, their usefulness in securing the crown molding is crucial.

A backing strip is exactly as it sounds, a thin strip of wood (usually softwood or plywood) that is placed behind the crown molding before it is installed. The backer strip provides a secure surface to rest the crown molding. This also means you will not have to search for studs and can use shorter nails.

The normal thickness of the backing strip can be from 1/16th to ½” which depends in large part on the appearance you want for the crown molding. When installing, you want to ensure that the backing strip does not come in contact with the back of the crown. Otherwise, it will prevent the flanges from coming into contact with the ceiling and wall. So, make sure that there is a small gap of approximately 1/16 to 1/8 inches between the molding and the backing surface to which it is attached.


You start by attaching the strips to the wall using brad nails. You’ll want to stop adding brad nails about six inches from the corners of the wall. If the crown molding you are using is quite wide, you may have to cut up the backing strip into triangle shapes. This also means that you may have to use 2×4 or even 2×6 material along with screws or nails to fasten them to the top plate of the wall.

Instructions from The Ultimate Guide to Trimwork
Crown Molding installation steps


If you want to reduce the number of nails, use glue in addition to nails. Use wood glue to secure wood or MDF crown moldings. Go for cyanoacrylate glue or two-part epoxy glue to attach mouldings made of plastics such as PVC, polyurethane, polystyrene, etc.
Keep in mind that the glue creates a really strong bond. Removing the glued trim will take considerable time and effort if you decide to replace them as a part of remodeling at a later date.

Use a Crown Molding Hanger

Are you a DIY enthusiast looking forward to install the trim by yourself? Get a pair of crown molding hangers.

Hanger holding molding

The hangers not only provide an extra pair of hands in supporting the molding but will also let you test and see how it looks before you make the cut.
How to Use Crown Molding Hanger

It is recommended that you avoid cross nailing into the drywall itself. The result will be crown molding that is loose and may easily pull away from the ceiling.

And now you have secured the crown molding to the wall and ceiling. All you need to do is cover any holes caused by the nails with putty. And then you can paint the crown molding to either blend in or complement the color on the walls or ceiling in your home.


The definition of crown molding is basically a decorative mold formed from a cornice that is installed at the top of an interior wall where it connects to the ceiling. This decorative molding is called “crown” because it sits atop the wall much like a crown sits atop the head.

Crown molding dates back several centuries. You can still find examples of crown molding in palaces and mansions from the Middle Ages.

Its purpose is two-fold. First, it provides a decorative touch to the upper walls and ceiling. You can choose from a wide variety of crown molding designs to suit your home. But it also provides a practical touch as it covers any cracks or imperfections that may be found in the wall or ceiling where they join.